Could Jack Butland's Rangers Form Put Him Back Into The England Picture?

By Ross Kilvington

News • Mar 1, 2024

Could Jack Butland's Rangers Form Put Him Back Into The England Picture?

Rumours have emerged that England boss Gareth Southgate is considering recalling Butland to the national team…

Sky Sports has recently reported that Rangers' goalkeeper Jack Butland could be back in the picture for England's upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

The Englishman has nine national caps to his name so far, but fell down pecking order for the Three Lions with the emergence of Dean Henderson and Aaron Ramsdale in the Premier League. 

Having not featured in an England squad since 2019, Butland is in a good place to end his nation team hiatus. 

Despite their relatively underwhelming start to the domestic season – losing three of their opening seven league matches – Butland's domestic club Rangers still find themselves atop of the SPFL table at the time of writing.

The main reason for this hasn't necessarily been an attack brimming with confidence, nor a back four who are rock solid, but rather a goalkeeper who has returned to the kind of form which has seen him make 87 appearances in the Premier League.

Jack Butland is arguably the best signing the Light Blues made during the summer transfer window. While Michael Beale got many things wrong during his ten-month stint in charge, luring Butland north of the border was one of his better decisions.

Last season, Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin were the two main options used in goal. Stalwart McGregor had been imperious between the sticks for the Gers for some time, but it had become apparent during the 2022/23 season that the goalkeeping department was in need of reinforcements.

Over the course of the campaign, McGregor played 36 times, but found himself out of the team during the opening few months, with McLaughlin making the bulk of his 16 appearances during this spell.

He played in consecutive 4-0 defeats to Celtic and Ajax while McGregor turned 41 midway through the season and had been some way from his usual best. This swapping of number ones, especially towards the end of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s final few months in charge of the club, seemed to go some way to unsettling the balance of the team.

Robby McCrorie did shine during the final few games of the campaign, but the onus was on Beale to find a reliable number one still in his prime years.

The 30-year-old cost the club nothing as his Crystal Palace contract had expired. The CV was impressive to say the least.

Fast forward to March, and the Ibrox side currently have the best defensive record in the league, testament to how quickly the former Stoke City shot stopper settled at his new club. Rangers have conceded only fourteen goals this season. Though not a particularly reliable indicator of goalkeeper performance, that number is undeniably impressive for a defensive unit. 

Upon Butland’s arrival at Ibrox, Beale’s delight at his success in landing a goalkeeper of the Englishman's calibre was evident. 

“At 30, he is coming into the prime years of his career having already amassed huge experience with 300 appearances in senior football, including almost 90 in the Premier League”, beamed the Rangers boss as the contracts were signed. 

There was no doubt the club were getting a player who could handle the pressure of performing in front of 50,000 supporters most weeks. Despite Rangers losing their opening league match to Kilmarnock, Butland began to show his class during the Champions League qualifiers.

Following a 2-2 draw against PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of the playoff round, Rangers looked to repeat their heroics from 2022 when they secured a 3-2 aggregate victory over the Dutch side.

It wasn’t to be this time around as Beale was tactically out-manoeuvred in an eventual 5-1 loss, but it could have been much worse if Butland had been absent.

The Englishman made a plethora of splendid saves despite their dominance, keeping the PSV attack at bay as often as he could, and he was the arguably the only player to get pass marks.

He made a wonderful save with his feet to deny Ismael Saibari just after the half hour mark, before getting down to parry away another effort from Saibari to keep the score at 2-0 and give the Gers a slim chance of progression.

The Englishman also got a strong right hand to beat away a curling effort from Johan Bakayoko when the score was 2-0, but ultimately, his efforts failed to see the club progress into the group stages.

Butland continued his excellent form in the Europa League and was hailed by Sparta Prague manager Brian Priske after the 0-0 draw in Prague.

“In the first half, we dominated in many aspects. We had more significant chances, but we probably lacked more quality. Even their goalkeeper made good saves”, stated Priske post match.

The Czech side had ten shots on target without finding the back of the net and it was becoming apparent that Butland was saving the Gers a lot of points, both domestically and on the continent.

Not much has changed for the Englishman since Philippe Clement took over from Beale in mid-October. He only further proved his credentials during the League Cup semi-final clash against Hearts at the start of November.

In a tense match, James Tavernier had opened the scoring, but Hearts were looking to come back into the tie. Winning a corner, Frankie Kent powered a header at goal, yet Butland flew to his right to save the effort and it proved to be a decisive save as the Ibrox side went on to win 3-1.

It was a save reminiscent of the heroics that legends such as McGregor, Stefan Klos, and Andy Goram displayed in front of the Gers faithful.

“It is always nice to play a part”, Butland reflected humbly, following the game.Calm in his demeanour both on and off the pitch, Rangers' number one brings back memories of Goram such is his command of the penalty area and shot-stopping abilities.

But why has Butland's form taken such an upturn recently?

The main reason is arguably consistency. Butland has yet to miss a game for Rangers and following a couple of injury hit seasons, getting back to playing twice a week is proving to be a good thing.

Butland had played just 17 times since leaving Stoke City in 2020 and this lack of consistency, which was not helped by suffering a broken finger during pre-season in 2022, meant he was not at his freshest when he did get an opportunity at Palace. Momentum is an important thing in goalkeeping, and Butland's career had been stop-start for some years.

Trust has been placed in the former Palace ‘keeper by both Beale and Clement and this is another key reason why he is performing to such a high standard.

Indeed, trust is a key factor to any player's success, especially a goalkeeper. Butland was a regular in the Stoke side under a succession of managers between 2015 and his departure in 2020. It was during the majority of this spell that he displayed his greatest consistency up until joining Rangers.

Establishing himself as the number one once again at a club of Rangers' stature will give Butland belief that he could return to the England squad for the first time since the Nations League Finals in June 2019. 

Historically, England managers in the past have failed to recognise players who are shining in Scotland, with only Fraser Forster bucking the trend in the previous ten years, but could this all change with Butland?

Jordan Pickford is Gareth Southgate’s number one choice and with the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Sam Johnstone, and Nick Pope ahead in the pecking order, has the former Palace star missed his chance? Especially since youngster James Trafford is leading the charge of the next generation.

If he keeps up these wonderful performances for Rangers over the coming months, his form may prove to be too hard to ignore for Southgate, who does have a reputation for keeping faith in the same group of players.

Rangers still have a chance at securing all three domestic trophies this season and with European football guaranteed after Christmas, Butland will have more opportunities to impress on the continental stage.

He has enjoyed a career rejuvenation in Glasgow over the previous few months and if he maintains his performance levels, the nine cap England international won’t just be the finest signing of the summer, but he could well be one of the finest signings the club has made since returning to the top flight in 2016.

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